Middletown City Council cannot do anything about the proposed Hollywoodland project, which is said to be one of the most significant developments in Southwest Ohio history.
With three of the five board members unable to vote on development due to potential conflicts of interest, the current board does not have the votes to decide anything, even whether to delay a vote.
This impasse could change with the arrival of two new members to the board in January.
Former police chief Rodney Muterspaw and real estate agent Zack Ferrell have won seats on the board. Both have said they oppose the Hollywoodland development deal.
Joe Mulligan, one of the board members with a potential conflict of interest, lost his seat. Ami Vitori, another board member with a potential conflict of interest, did not seek re-election.
The board is considering a development deal with Main Street Community Capital LLC for Hollywoodland, an entertainment-themed mixed-use project valued at around $ 1.3 billion.
“Right now I’m a no,” Ferrell told The Enquirer.
Ferrell said he knocked on 1,300 doors in his campaign and met three people who supported the project.
“If the audience doesn’t want it, then they don’t need to come through,” he said.
Muterspaw said he believed the council would vote on the project before he took office, but would vote no.
“I haven’t heard enough to make myself believe it,” he said. “The [developer’s] the presentation left a lot to be desired, but the most important thing for me is that the community does not want it.
Muterspaw also tweeted his opposition to the project on October 30. He took issue with a quote from City Manager Jim Palenick in a Hamilton Journal-News article in which Palenick said the size and scope of the project is so great that the citizens of Middletown “don’t know how to figure it out.”
“I respect the director and the board for trying to do something really good here,” Muterspaw told The Enquirer. “I just wish they had done a better job of communicating instead of keeping it in executive session for so long. I think people have lost faith with that.”
Ahead of the Oct. 21 board meeting, Main Street Community Capital asked to defer voting on the project until Dec. 7 so developers can “continue conversations with the community.”
Some board members also wanted the advice of legal counsel and the Ohio Ethics Commission before deciding whether or not to abstain from voting on the deal.
Mulligan said he would abstain because his family members own property adjacent to the proposed development site.
Council members Monica Nenni and Vitori own businesses in the city center. Nenni said at the Oct. 21 meeting that city lawyers had indicated she would be okay with voting on the development agreement, but she reached out to the Ohio Ethics Commission for advice. formal.
Council member Talbott Moon said he struggled to see a way forward for the project during the council meeting on Tuesday.
“Communities need to support development projects both in the construction phase and in the long term for them to be successful,” Moon said. “At the moment, I don’t see a lot of support, which makes it very difficult to progress.”
Middletown City Council will then meet at 5:30 p.m. on November 16 at 1 Donham Plaza. To watch council meetings, visit the city’s YouTube page.
Erin Glynn is the surveillance reporter for Butler, Warren and Clermont counties on the Report For America program. The Enquirer needs local donors to help fund his grant-funded position. If you want to support Glynn’s work, you can donate to his Report For America position on this website or email his editor Carl Weiser at [email protected] to find out how you can help fund his work.
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